As a child, Mendoza was saved from the Inquisition by The Company, a group of far future time travellers who mine the past for precious objects and extinct species. Granted immortality and other powers, she is trained as a botanist, to save rare plants for future generations. Her first posting is to Tudor England, to a famous garden full of endangered species. It seems a simple task, although she is horrified that she will have to interact with the mortal and violent "monkeys". But things go awry when she falls for the mortal Harpole, who has strong religious beliefs at a time when the wrong religious beliefs can be fatal.
This is an intriguing tale. The time travelling and immortality background, with the snappy, sarky dialogue, mesh surprisingly well with the Elizabethan setting and manners. And the setting is well enough drawn to make me very glad I didn't live then. I'm looking forward to how Mendoza's tale progresses as she moves forward in time (at one day per day), and begins to come to terms with her immortality.
It's 1699, and Joseph, an immortal Company facilitator, is sent with a team to California to rescue the Chumash culture and people before they are destroyed by the encroaching white men. He does this by pretending to be their god, Sky Coyote, and persuading them to pack up and leave peacefully. It doesn't go completely smoothly, of course, partly due to the wileyness of the Chumash, partly due to the meddling of the future mortals on the Company team. And there are very strong markers that the Company has some rather sinister methods for dealing with its immortals.
Mendoza is in this tale, but as a secondary character. The story is told through the eyes of Joseph, the immortal who recruited her and was with her during her disastrous first mission. This has a slightly different flavour from In the Garden of Iden, as the snappy snarky dialogue is extended to the locals as well. Presumably there is rather less evidence of how they actually spoke. However, I enjoyed their cynical capitalist worldview, and their confusion as they have to believe their gods are not actually just metaphors. There are a lot more digs at monotheistic religious fervour. And the growing problem of the Company's role, as the story moves towards the critical 2355, is intriguing.
Company Botanist Mendoza has been happily roaming the wilds of California on her own for several hundred years. But now, in 1862, she is given a new mission: to save endangered species near Los Angeles before the drought makes them all extinct. Back in the company of fellow operatives, she has a fine time gathering specimens, being shot at by the locals, watching movies yet to be made, and slowly uncovering a strange plot. Soon that leads her to indiscretions paralleling her first disastrous mission.
Here we have the same interesting playing with history, the strangeness of the immortals, and the strangeness of the ordinary mortals as seen through their eyes. I think Baker got a little carried away with some of the film descriptions, and some of the essential historical detail is infodumped in a rather undigested form. But the overall story is fascinating, and is getting stranger: there's clearly something different about Mendoza, something different about Laurel Canyon, and something not quite right with The Company. But all is not yet revealed...
We last saw Lewis in Mendoza in Hollywood, urgently telling her "Don't go with him!" Now we see the same scene from his point of view, and what happens after. He knows something bad has happened, so goes to find his fellow cyborg-immortal, Joseph, who recruited Mendoza. Together and separately, over the next couple of hundred years, they try to track down what happened, only to discover bigger and more deeply nested Company conspiracies than they had ever imagined.
This is another great episode in the Company saga. It is the first book set in our future, and it is interesting to see the urban decay of England (including its fundamentalist veganism!) and the Balkanisation of the USA. Lewis and Joseph have to work slowly to avoid suspicion, but being immortals, they have little sense of urgency anyway. But they are moving ever closer to the "present" of 2355, when the mysterious "Silence" falls. One thing I don't understand about the time travel aspect. Mendoza has been sent back into the deep past. But why don't they think her (much older!) immortal self will nevertheless be present now? It's almost as if they feel she is still in the past, somehow. But that's a minor quibble (particularly given the hints that she is around.)
The gradual revelations of the various layers of deception and conspiracy hold the interest, all leavened with Baker's sly humour about the obsessions that can overtake the immortals. Still no resolution about Mendoza's fate, though. It's not only immortals who wait...
Ever wonder why those two men that Mendoza met, Nicholas Harpole and Edward Bell-Fairfax, were so similar? Well, meet Alex Checkerfield, third extremely familiar figure, who pops into Mendoza's life in Back Way Back, where she has spent the last three thousand years in exile. After this teaser start, we follow a plot by some Company historical re-enactors, and Alex's unplanned upbringing, that result in that meeting, and Mendoza's even bigger problems afterwards.
More plot revelations as we slide ever closer to the fateful Big Silence of 2355, and things begin to spiral out of control. Baker manages to mix the ridiculous and the tragic, the hilarious and the mundane, in a fascinating view of a deeply unpleasant future. And I'm now highly suspicious of the Company's claim that you can't change history.
Here we learn the tale of immortal Facilitator Labienus, from when he was rescued as a prehistoric child by Enforcer Budu, up to close to the "Silence" of 2355. We see some familiar events from different viewpoints, and understand how and why others happened. But this is a "fixup" novel of several short stories, and the episodic structure is still clear. Also, Labienus is an extremely unpleasant character, and we get little or none of the sly humour that enlivened the earlier books. So, some useful background, but not really a joy to read.
This is the story of Mary Griffith, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It’s the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan; of the denizens of the Martian Motel; and of the machinations of another Company entirely. Mary and her struggles and triumphs are at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars.
At the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society, Edward soon learns that a secret world flourishes beneath the surface of London’s society, a world of wondrous and terrible inventions and devices used to tip the balance of power in a long-running game at high-stakes intrigue. Through his intensive training, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, an unwanted and lonely boy, becomes Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, Victorian super-assassin, fleeing across the Turkish countryside in steam-powered coaches and honing his fighting skills against clockwork opponents.
As Edward travels across Europe with a team of companions, all disguised as gentlemen dandies on tour, he learns more about himself and the carious abilities he is gradually developing. He begins to wonder if there isn’t more going on than simple international intrigue, and if he and his companions are maybe part of a political and economic game stretching through the centuries. But, in the end, is it a game he can bring himself to play?
Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, the idealistic assassin. Perhaps the most dangerous man alive.